The US Supreme Court is expected to issue its first opinions on Monday, capping off a historically slow start to an already momentous term.
Although the court doesn’t say in advance what’s coming, the oldest outstanding cases are a property dispute over the EPA’s authority to regulate wetlands and a fight over the proceeds of unclaimed MoneyGram checks between Delaware and other states. There’s also a copyright case over Andy Warhol’s celebrity images due for a decision. These cases were argued in the early part of the term.
The court, which kicked off arguments Oct. 3, typically issues at least one opinion—often a unanimous one—in late-November or early-December.
This is the first time since the Supreme Court began starting its term on the first Monday in October in 1917 that it hasn’t released a decision through the beginning of December, Empirical SCOTUS creator Adam Feldman has noted.
“While the Roberts Court will be remembered for its ideological splits and key decisions in the areas of individual rights and liberties, it will also be remembered for its slow decision making process and curtailed number of decisions each term,” Feldman wrote recently on his website. “This term follows the same trajectory.”
Slow Start, Smaller Docket Contrasts Hot-Button Term (Podcast)
The Supreme Court decides around 60 argued cases each term and the opinion drought this time has raised new questions about its internal dynamics. The next ruling will be the first since the court finished a tumultuous term that featured a decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion as well as the unprecedented leak of that opinion Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
When the justices take the bench on Monday, it will be their first public appearance since the Jan. 19 release of a report detailing the investigation into the leak, which identified no suspects so far. But investigators did reveal details about the court’s aging computer systems and practices for handling sensitive information, like opinions.
The leak and the resulting investigation, and the highly contentious nature of cases under consideration this term could be slowing the justices down.
Also Monday, it will be the first time the court has delivered opinions from the bench since March 2020 when operations went remote because of the pandemic. They’ve been hearing arguments in person since last term. Arguments are livestreamed but opinion releases will not be, the court has said.
—With assistance from Greg Stohr
To contact the reporter on this story:
To contact the editors responsible for this story: